Recalling the popular American's first and only championship.
It’s almost a full decade ago that Nicky Hayden became the 2006 MotoGP World Champion, using consistency and the phenomenal RC211V in the final season of the 990cc era to overcome Valentino Rossi for the title.
With Hayden only just this year exiting MotoGP for a factory Honda ride in WorldSBK, he will make somewhat of an unexpected return this weekend at MotorLand Aragon as the replacement of Australian newcomer Jack Miller at Team Estrella Galicia 0,0 Marc VDS Honda.
In 2006, at 25 years of age when he clinched the crown, Hayden quickly got into the stride of the championship, taking seven podiums in the first eight races. The seventh of these was his first victory outside of the US, when he took advantage of a crash from Colin Edwards on the final lap at Assen to snatch the win.
He soon was winning again at home once more and looked on course for his first world championship. The major blow came however in round 16 in Estoril when his teammate Dani Pedrosa collided with him and left him eight points behind Rossi.
However Hayden came back strong and the 16 points in the final round coupled with Rossi’s crash mean Hayden fulfilled his lifelong dream of success on an international scale in motorcycling’s elite event.
It was an emotional result for ‘The Kentucky Kid’, who had made his unlikely grand prix debut just a few years earlier in the 2003 season aboard a Repsol Honda off the back of winning the 2002 American Superbike Championship. He hasn’t won another title or GP since, but he’s no doubt one of the most respected racers of all-time.